Director: J.A. Bayona
Writers: Patrick Ness
Stars: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson
Back before the movie was to originally release in October, I heard many great things about the book. In preparation for this review, I decided to read the novel first. It is a short story with capturing illustrations and themes that made me ponder for days. As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew this movie was going to be amazing and loyal to the original story. I was right.
Violence/Scary Images: A few characters die, some by illness, some by beasts, and some by stabbing. The most explicit one is where a woman is stabbed and a man gets blood all over his hands, but it’s animated.
Language/Crude Humor: I only recall d*** being used once.
Spiritual Content: There is a parson who uses his preaching to promote his personal ideals.
Sexual Content: There wasn’t sexual content per se, but there is a partial nudity when Grandma is helping Conor’s mother undress. You just see her back and emaciated form.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Conor’s father drinks wine.
Other Negative Content: The only theme I don’t really like is that most people are not all good or all bad. I get a bit iffy with promoting the gray character concept.
Positive Content: Ultimately, this is a story of suffering and healing. Conor feels angry, afraid, and in pain in his situation, and he doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions. The Monster can’t give him the tools to solve his problems, but he gives Conor the tools to endure. Many people believe that becoming a Christian means God will solve all of our problems, but in truth Christianity doesn’t give us a solution to our suffering, but gives us tools to endure it.
Conor is a boy too old to be a kid and too young to be a man. He lives with his mother who is fighting cancer and every night he suffers the same terrible nightmare. At 12:07 a.m. the great yew tree monster comes to call. He tells Conor that he will tell him three stories on three nights then on the fourth night Conor will tell him a tale of truth, a truth that Conor feels like he will die if he reveals.
A Monster Calls is not a typical story as the Monster proves in each of his unusual tales. The Monster doesn’t do what is expected. He’s terrifying, but kind at the same time, which reminds me much of Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia. Liam Neeson is the perfect voice for this character. He breathes life into the Monster.
Sigourney Weaver performs excellently as Conor’s Grandma who is faced with the impending death of her only daughter. Felicity Jones gives heartbreaking authenticity to Conor’s mother. She delivers her key lines perfectly. I cried when she said them. The shining star is Lewis MacDougall. He played his role genuinely and I could tell he put all of his heart and soul into it. His performance at the climax of the film especially moved me to tears. This movie will certainly take you on an emotional ride.
For those of you who have read the book, the movie is very close almost line by line. This should be expected considering Patrick Ness himself had the honor of writing the screenplay. The film cut a few things to quicken the pace and added a few scenes that I thought brought extra depth to the limited cast of characters. I love that Ness added that Conor loves to draw. This allowed the signature illustrations from the book to be incorporated into the film. Art places a key role. The ending is even extended to show further significance to the art, which as a fan of the book I really enjoyed.
The visual effects are beautiful. I love the Monster’s translation to CGI. The animation team kept his design as close to the original illustrations as possible. They even posed him in some of the exact positions and locations as the illustrations. It was like seeing the drawings come to life on the screen. Each of the tales were told in animated sequences with watercolor-like artwork. It’s such a visually pleasing film. I couldn’t help, but smile at the beauty. Though many sequences of the film were silent, the score by Fernandez Velazquez comes in during at the perfect scenes. It’s a moving score that I know I’ll be listening to frequently.
A Monster Calls is a gorgeous and moving film. It’s a bittersweet tale that I believe anyone who has suffered deeply as a child can relate to. This resonated into my childhood and I believe it will strike truth with many. Whether you’re a fan of the book or new to this tale, this is a must-see movie.
+ Very Loyal to the Book + Deep Message + Great Acting
The Bottom Line
A Monster Calls is a moving coming of age story with unexpected twists and deep themes. This is another classic in the making.